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Strange Lunch

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FBI Headquarters
Washington D.C.
April 15, 1996

"Excuse me, could I please speak to an Agent Mulder?"

Dana Scully glanced up at the sound of her partner's name. A handsome man with wavy light brown hair was leaning against the receptionist's desk, a camera dangling from his shoulder. The worn brown trenchcoat and casual apparel made him look rather bedraggled.

Julianne Myers studied him. "Are you a reporter, sir?" She sounded doubtful and suspicious at the same time.

"Well, actually I'm a photographer, but that's not why I'm here. He's a friend of my brother's."

Intrigued, Scully approached the desk. "I understand you're looking for Mulder?"

The man spun, startled. "Um...yeah."

"I'm his partner, Dana Scully." She held out one hand.

"Chance Harper. Nice to meet you."

"Chance. That's an unusual name."

He smiled cryptically. "Yeah, well I'm an unusual guy. Let's just say it fits me."

"You said Mulder is a friend of your brother?"

"Yeah. Eric Vandenberg. You know him?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't. Did he send you here?"

"Actually, I'm looking for him. He told me to come here if I ever needed to get ahold of him." He flashed her a lopsided grin and shrugged. "Which I actually don't right at the moment, but you never know."

"Well, I'm sorry I can't help you, but Mulder should be in soon."

"That's great. Do you have a cafeteria in here anywhere? I haven't had lunch, and if I'm going to wait, I might as well do something."

Scully smiled. "I think we can probably find you something edible."

"Do you want me to leave my camera here or anything?"

She laughed. "No, the cafeteria's not classified. You can take all the pictures of it you want, although I don't know that anyone would want them."

"I don't know. A photo expose on how government employees eat could be just the thing to get my editor off my back." He grinned again.

With an answering smile and a wave to Julianne, Scully started in the direction of the cafeteria.

"So do you live around here?"

Chance shook his head. "Nope. I was in town photographing a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, but my car got stolen."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

He shrugged. "It's no big deal. I've always gotten it back before. And even if I don't this time, I could probably use a new one anyway."

Scully stopped and stared at Chance, amused. "Wait a minute. You mean your car has been stolen before?"

He nodded. "Yeah. A few times. Like I said though, I've always gotten it back."

"You seem awfully casual about it."

"Well, I just go with the flow. Roll with the punches. Expect the unexpected. All those cliches."

Scully made a mental note that some of those cliches seemed to contradict each other. Well, if he was the brother of one of Mulder's friends...

"So, how does Mulder know your brother anyway?"

Chance shrugged. "I don't know. I figured it had something to do with what Eric's wife got killed over. The chemical company she worked for was involved in germ warfare, or something like that. Do you guys investigate stuff like that?"

"No, although Mulder might have done so before he started working with the X-Files."


"Cases that appear to defy explanation or rationalization by normal means."

"Sounds like my life," he muttered with a smile.

"How so?"

"It appears to defy explanation and rationalization by normal means." His smile broadened at Scully's raised eyebrow. "Stick around me for very long and you'll see what I mean."

Chance studied the woman beside him as they carried their trays to a table. She was very pretty, although in an unusual way. Personality wise, she reminded him a little of Audrey...and Dr. Richter...and Angie for that matter. Actually, her appearance reminded him of Angie a little too, especially the red hair, though Scully's was not as dark as his friend's.

They sat down, and Chance studied his sandwich. "For cafeteria fare, it doesn't look half bad. Although I'd wager they don't make them half as well as Angie does."

Scully smiled. "Who's Angie?"

"A friend of mine. She owns a diner called the Blue Plate. Best food in town."

"Well, this place isn't as bad as its reputation." She smiled, nodding at his sandwich, and lifting a forkful of salad. "Why don't you see for yourself?"

"Don't mind if I do." Chance hefted the sandwich and bit down.

Something hard interrupted his bite. Curious, he took the sandwich out of his mouth and looked at it. There seemed to be something in the bread...

"You don't like it?" Scully asked.

"I don't know yet..." He set it down and ripped into the thick slice of bread.

The agent's mouth dropped open as Chance pulled a gold ring set with a solitaire diamond out of his sandwich. The photographer frowned. It looks like an engagement ring... he thought.

"How did THAT get in there?"

Chance turned the ring over a few times in his hands, looking for anything that would give him a clue as to its owner. "It must have fallen in the dough. Do you know where they get their bread?"

Scully shook her head. "You can ask. Is there an inscription or anything in it?"


"Here, let me see it."

Chance handed it to her and the two studied it, completely oblivious to the conjectures being made by those who could see unusual scene, but not hear the conversation that went with it.

"It must be something important," Chance muttered to himself, wondering who the ring belonged to and why it had fallen into his hands. There had to be a why--at least with him, there always was.

"What makes you say that?"

"Because that's the way my life is."

Scully gave him an odd look, but he didn't volunteer to explain further. She handed him back the ring, shaking her head in wonder. "Well, I expect whoever owns that ring is probably looking for it. I know I wouldn't want to lose an engagement ring. I wonder what size it is?"

Chance slipped it onto his little finger, smiling at how ridiculous it looked on him. "Not mine. You want to try it on?"

She nodded, and he slipped it onto her finger.

"Perfect fit." He flashed that lopsided grin at her again. "Now I just hope that doesn't mean I just passed my Luck on to you, like I did to Angie the time she helped me deliver a baby."

Scully looked at him blankly. "Pardon?"

Still grinning, the photographer opened his mouth to tell her the story. He was interrupted by a loud chorus of screams, and an explosion of people outward from a point near the center of the cafeteria.

"What on Earth?" Scully sputtered, as Chance stood up to investigate.

As soon as he saw what was wrong, Chance sprinted back to the table. "Go in the back and get a box or something. A BIG one."

Startled and rather puzzled by the request, Scully slipped into the kitchen. She returned a moment later with a large tupperware bowl almost the same color as her hair.

"Mr. Harper, I've got this, but what--" She stopped, her face wrinkling in distaste.

Mice! Chance Harper was virtually covered in white mice! A couple of other patrons were standing beside him, holding a mouse by the tail with each hand. Chance reached for the bowl and Scully pulled back as he took it from her.

"Call me Chance," he told her calmly, beginning to pluck mice off himself and drop them into the bowl, which they couldn't climb out of because of its steep, slick sides. Some managed to catch their tiny paws on the edges of the bowl in a vain attempt NOT to be deposited in it, but he pried them loose and added them to the squirming mass of white fur and pink eyes, ears and tails. A security guard came over, holding one mouse by the tail that four others were clinging to as if their lives depended on it. Which they might.

"And my shift's officially over, too," the guard commented wryly. "Although I have to admit, this one has been more interesting than usual, thanks to these little guys."

Chance just smiled. By this time, there were about fifty mice in the bowl. The other people in the cafeteria had either helped gather or stood around looking terrified. "Did we miss any?" he asked.

Scully held one young one up by the tail that she had caught trying to crawl onto their table and eat the abandoned lunch. "I think this is it."

So, now what do we do with them?"

"Take them to Skinner and let him deal with them?" she suggested, watching the squirming contents of the bowl with a detatched amusement.

"Okay..." Chance mumbled. "Who's Skinner?"

Assistant Director Skinner looked up, startled, as Agent Scully entered his office with a man in a brown trenchcoat who was carrying a large, orange, plastic bowl. Both of them had almost silly smiles on their faces, which was something he rarely saw with her. He directed his gaze towards the bowl, convinced it must be the cause, but as it swept over Scully's hands, he caught a glint of something shining on one of them, which drew his attention.

His eyes widened. An engagement ring? Well, THIS was Certainly unexpected, though it would explain the goofy grins. He hadn't known she was seeing anyone, and several people in the Bureau had speculated that she might be interested in her partner...

Skinner shifted his gaze to the man standing beside the young agent. He didn't seem like Scully's type at all, but who was he to say what was her type?

"Sir, I'd like you to meet Chance Harper. Chance, this is my boss, Assistant Director Skinner."

Skinner stood to shake Chance's hand before realizing that the man's hands were a little full. This drew his attention back to the bowl.

"You've got quite a handful, there, Mr. Harper," he commented, nodding at Chance's load. "What is it?"

The photographer tipped it towards him enough for him to see, saying, "Someone let these little guys loose in the cafeteria."

Skinner's face went white the moment he saw the contents of the bowl. He slapped the intercom to his secretary. "Send that quarantine team I ordered up to my office, NOW!"

"Sir, they're just mice," Scully objected, puzzled.

"No, they're not `just' mice. Have you ever heard of Neo-Typhus D?"

She nodded. "A strain of Typhus developed for use in the Vietnam conflict. It was never used because the war ended, and it was discovered to be transmittable only through bodily fluids. After the war, production of it was outlawed, and the existing supplies were destroyed."

"That's what we thought, until this morning. An employee at a local lab called, panicked, saying the lab had been robbed, and the animals used in NTD research stolen. He had been sworn to secrecy by his employers, but was afraid the animals would get loose and infect the population. Apparently, they'd developed a more virulent strain, known as D1, and were selling it to the highest bidder." Skinner gestured towards the bowl. "The animals which disappeared were fifty white mice."

"Well, what do you know? It's still here." Scully smiled as they approached their abandoned table. She studied the meal on her tray. "Although I'd wager it's all room temperature by now."

"At this point, I don't really care." Chance plopped himself into the booth and picked up his sandwich. He glanced up at the agent as she sat down.

As their eyes met, the ridiculousness of the whole situation finally sank in and Scully began to laugh uncontrollably. "If you could have seen yourself, standing there with mice all over you..!"

Her laughter was contagious, and soon Chance was also chuckling, a broad smile brightening up his whole face. The two of them just sat there laughing until one of the cafeteria workers approached the table.

With an answering smile, Gretchen switched their trays for fresh renditions of the same items. "We decided it was the least we could do, Agent Scully," she offered in explanation.

Scully fought to control her laughter. "That be the funniest...thing that has ever happened here!"

Gretchen nodded, grinning. "I'll say. It's no wonder Ynez Spencer decided to take home a souvenir."

That casual statement severed the humor of the moment as Chance and Scully remembered the conversation they had just moments ago with Skinner.

"What kind of souvenir?" she asked.

The cafeteria worker looked startled at the sudden change in mood. "One of the mice. She took it home as a pet. Why, is something the matter?"

The agent nodded grimly, pulling a piece of paper out of her pocket. "Do you know Ynez's address?"

Gretchen nodded slowly and carefully recited the address. When she was done writing it down, Scully stood.

"Come on." she called to her companion as she hurried out the door.

Chance picked up his coat and quickly followed her.

"Is Ynez in?"

The young woman who had opened the door at the Spencer home nodded. "Mom just got home a little while ago."

"Could you please tell her Agent Scully is here to see her?"

"Who is it, Laura?" Scully heard Ynez's voice coming from inside the house.

"An Agent Scully to see you, Mom."

Mrs. Spencer's face brightened. "Agent Scully, please come in! What brings you here?"

"A mouse, actually," Chance answered.

"You mean the one I brought home from the little incident at the cafeteria? Harris just left to get a cage for it. Why, what's the trouble?"

"I'm afraid you can't keep it," Scully said with a sigh. "We've found out where the mice came from, and if you keep it in the house, there's a good chance your whole family would be put in grave danger."

"From a little mouse?" Ynez asked, startled and a little frightened. "Why?"

"They're lab mice, Ynez. They were being used in illegal germ warfare experiments. The lab has been shut down, but all of the mice are infected with a deadly and incurable disease. If it bit one of your children, they could die. And even if it didn't, it wouldn't be much of a pet, since it probably won't live much longer."

Mrs. Spencer's face went white. "Laura, go get the container I brought home from work with me, okay? But DON'T touch the mouse!"

"I won't, Mom. I heard her too." Laura's voice was trembling. She disappeared into the back of the house.

"How old is Laura, Ynez?"

"She turns twenty-two in a week." Her face lit up. "Did you hear that she's engaged?"

"Engaged? Really?" Scully shot an amused glance in Chance's direction. Wouldn't it be funny if that ring turned out to be hers? she thought. "I'll have to congratulate her when she comes back."

"Yes, she and Aaron are very happy. Now, if only she could get Charlie off her back."

"Charlie?" Chance asked.

"Yes, Charlie Soames, her previous boyfriend. I'm telling you, the boy frightens me. He--"

She was interrupted by Laura's reappearance with a covered collander. "Here he is." She held it up and Scully could see the mouse through the holes.

"We'd better get this little guy back to Headquarters."

Chance nodded, taking the collander from Laura's hands, and they headed for the door. In the doorway, Scully turned back to Ynez and Laura. "Thank you both."

"Thank YOU," Ynez replied sincerely. "If you hadn't come for that mouse, I don't want to think what might have happened."

"It was nice meeting you, Laura. And congratulations on your engagement."

The cafeteria worker's daughter just stared at the agent's offered hand.

"Is something wrong?" Scully asked.

"No." Laura shook her head. "It's just...your ring."

"What about it?" she asked curiously.

"It's just like mine."

"I noticed you're not wearing yours right now," Chance commented.

She shook her head, blushing. "I lost it. I was at work and Charlie came in. He gets so furious if I even mention Aaron's name, I was scared of how he'd react to the ring, so I took it off. I haven't seen it since."

Scully glanced at Chance, her eyes wide with disbelief. He just shrugged, an ironic grin on his face. "You don't happen to work in a bakery, do you?" she asked Laura.

"Yes, I do. How did you know?"

"Because this isn't my ring. Chance found it in a slice of bread. Do you think it could be yours?"

Laura held out her hand. "Let me see."

Scully slipped the ring off her finger and handed it to the other girl, who put it on. Her face lit up as it slid on without effort. "Yes, it's mine! It must have fallen in the dough!"

"I guess we must wear the same ring size." She and Chance turned to leave.

"Wait!" Laura called after them.


Reluctantly, she slid the ring back off her finger. "Could you hold on to this for me for a little longer please, Agent Scully? I have to tell Charlie about my engagement to Aaron eventually, but I'd rather not be wearing the ring when I do. He'll be calmer that way. But I'm afraid of losing it again."

Scully smiled and took the ring from her. "Give me a call when you want it back."

Laura nodded, relieved. "Trust me, I will."

"This is incredible," Scully commented starting the car and buckling her seatbelt. "If this keeps up, I'm not going to have time to eat before I have to go back to work." She glanced over at where Chance was holding the collander in his lap, a knowing grin on his face. "I hope you have a good grip on that thing."

"He's not going anywhere."

Nodding in relief, the agent checked her mirrors and pulled out into the street from where she had parallel parked in front of the Spencer's house. "You seem to be taking this rather calmly. I'm getting more frazzled by the moment, but you look as though this kind of thing happens to you every day."

"It does."

"What? You have white mice interrupt your lunch on a daily basis?" Scully shot him an amused look.

"Not mice..."

"But something?"

He shrugged. "Let's just say I can't remember a time when my life was uneventful."

"I don't suppose you could be more specific."

Chance leaned back in his seat, a thoughful look on his face and his brow furrowed in concentration. "Okay...what are the chances of winning the lottery?"

"Probably one in a million."

"Well, for me it's one in seven."

Scully shot him a skeptical glance that she usually reserved for Mulder, complete with raised eyebrow. A loud horn blast from an oncoming car pulled her attention back to the road just in time to swerve out of its way. "Sorry..." she muttered under her breath, coloring a little in embarrassment that she'd allowed herself to get so distracted. Chance didn't seem to have noticed, so she resumed the conversation. "How is that?"

"It's never taken me more than seven tickets to get a winner." He paused and shrugged. "Well, except once."

"And I presume you have an explanation for that exception?"

"That was the day Angie sort of 'borrowed' my luck."

Scully decided not to ask for details, since Chance's earlier attempt to tell her this story had been interrupted. "If you don't mind me asking, how does that relate to white mice and engagement rings?" This time, though she was dying to see the expression on his face, she kept her eyes on the road.

"It was just an example. You asked me to be specific."

"You're saying this goes beyond the lottery, huh?"


"How so?" They were at a stoplight, so Scully allowed herself to give him her full attention.

"More specifics?"

"You got it."

"Let's see...You're a doctor, I take it you've delivered a baby?"

She nodded, glancing back at the light to see if it had turned yet.

"Well, I'm NOT a doctor and I've delivered several, often more than one a day. I've had my car stolen half a dozen times and the one time I traded it in, the other one broke down on me. I've never run into someone unless it's for a reason. Stuff like that, though that's not even half of it." He nodded in the direction of the light. "Green."

Caught in the act of getting distracted twice now, Scully accidentally hit the gas with a little more force than was necessary. She quickly got the car back under the speed limit, but was having trouble not imagining the deadpan teasing her partner would be putting her through right about now if he was here. Chance must be getting a great impression of her driving skills, she reflected grimly.

Unconsciously, she channeled her embarrassment into irritation with her passenger. "Wait a minute, are you trying to tell me that you think what happened in the cafeteria today was your fault?" Her voice was incredulous.

"Not the words I would have chosen, but, yeah. Sort of."

"Unless you let the mice out and baked Laura's ring into the bread, I find that rather ridiculous." She hadn't meant that to come out so sharply, but he was beginning to remind her of Mulder, only maybe worse. This guy didn't just believe in the paranormal, he thought HE was paranormal!

Chance took it in stride though, and just kept grinning. That crooked smile of his reminded her of Mulder too. The difference was that Chance used his a lot more often. "How would you explain our little adventure then?" he asked.

She shook her head again in disbelief. "For someone named Chance, you certainly don't have a whole lot of respect for it. Is there some unwritten rule against living up to your name?"

"If there were, I get the impression your name would be Destiny," was the jovial reply.

"Is that so?"

Chance raised his hands in mock surrender, leaving the collander balanced precariously on his knees. "I was just kidding. Although..." A smile crept over his face and he looked thoughtful for a moment. "What's your middle name?"

"Katherine. Why?"

"Oh, nothing, just an idea."

They rode on for a few moments in silence, Scully trying to calm down by reminding herself that she wasn't really angry with Chance. It helped that he hadn't responded in kind to any of her jibes, making her realize he probably didn't place nearly as much importance on her _driving_ slip-ups as she did either. A little more relaxed, and rather contrite now, she smiled at him, and he returned it as if nothing had happened. The relief that washed over her was incredible.

At the next stoplight, which was only about a block from Headquarters, Scully glanced down at her watch. "I still have a few minutes left for lunch. You want to try again?"

"If our food's still there, I'd be more than happy to eat it."

"Good, you can tell me about your idea then."

"I'm surprised you want to hear it."

"Curiosity is not limited to the 'believers' of the world, Mr. Harper." Scully resisted the surprising temptation to wink at him.

She was turning into the parking lot when a curiously piecemeal car like nothing she had ever seen before came out of nowhere and almost hit them. Scully and the other driver both slammed suddenly on the brakes, her car blocking the only exit from the lot.

"Hey, that's my car!" Chance exclaimed.

The agent didn't allow herself time to wonder why anyone would want to steal such a junker. She threw open the door and jumped out, leaving the photographer to turn of the ignition.

"Are you sure this is your car?" She tossed the question over her shoulder as she drew her gun and badge.

"You think there are two of those things in the world?"

Good point. "Federal agent--" she called to the single occupant of the car. "Get out of the car and put your hands on top of it!"

Slowly a young man with shaggy dark hair and a sour expression on his face climbed out of the car. He sneered when he saw that a woman had arrested him, and turned to flee. Scully fired one shot that caught him right in the knee and the boy collapsed.

"Chance, do you think we can wait to get the mouse back to Headquarters until we take this guy down to the police station?"

He glanced at the collander in his lap. "Yeah, no hurry," he replied calmly, his voice displaying a hint of amusement. "It's dead."

"I want to thank you two for bringing that young man in," Captain Sheehan, a heavy set black man with salt-and-pepper hair, remarked. Two blue-uniformed officers had just finished taking Scully and Chance's statements about the arrest, which would be filed with Chance's initial report of the car being stolen. "He's a suspect in a string of other car thefts too, though we've never been able to pin anything to him before now."

A phone rang in the background, and Sheehan glanced over his shoulder to make sure it wasn't for him. One of the plainclothes officers picked it up. Two men in uniform passed them, leading a couple of scantily-clad ladies in handcuffs.

Looks like lunch hour here has been pretty busy too, Scully reflected with a faint smile, turning back to the captain. "What does he do with the vehicles?" she asked.

"We're not sure. Probably resells them on the black market or something. I'm just glad he doesn't live in Southern California. Did you hear that they'd been having trouble with stolen cars being taken across the border and sold to Mexican police?" Scully noticed that he sounded almost as incredulous as some of Mulder's theories made her.

"Yes I have. It is a rather unusual problem."

"I'll say! What do you tell the victims of those crimes, for crying out loud--'Gee, we've found your car, but we can't return it because a Mexican cop bought it and won't let us bring it back across the border?'"

She smiled faintly.

One young female officer approached Sheehan and handed him a sheet of paper, smiling in passing at Scully and Chance. The captain grunted briefly and set the paper down on his desk. "The only thing I don't understand--" he continued. "And I hope you don't mind me saying this, Mr. Harper--is why Charlie went after your car. He usually goes for the classier models, a LOT classier."

For the umpteenth time that hour, the agent found herself staring at someone in disbelief. "Charlie?"

"Yeah, Charlie Soames. He's been in here so often, I think he's on a first name basis with everyone in the precinct. Drug charges, trespassing, harassment...the kid's got just about everything in his file but kidnapping and murder."

Scully shook her head in exasperation. "I don't believe this!" she muttered indistinctly to herself.

The captain left after thanking them again, and Scully just stood there for a few minutes, lost in thought. That really was an incredible coincidence--aggravatingly so. If it weren't for the fact that what Chance had told her completely defied logic and reason, not to mention reality, she would be tempted to believe it. She glanced over at him as if to reassure herself that he really was a perfectly normal human being. He was sitting down, scribbling something on a small scrap of paper, an amused look on his face.

"What are you writing?"

"My idea. Look at this." He stood and handed her the paper.

On it was written her full name, Dana Katherine Scully, and underneath it, the word "destiny." Several of the letters in her name were crossed out. "What's this?"

"I spelled that..." he pointed to 'destiny,' "only with letters from your name. It is in there." He grinned. "If it weren't, your name would be 'Ana Kahre Cull.'"

Scully laughed. "Well, what do you know?" Her eyes drifted back to her watch. "Damn. I've got to get back to work. Do you want to come with me? Mulder should be back by now."

Chance shook his head. "Nah. I'm going to head home. Here..." He flipped the paper over and scribbled his address and phone number on the back of it. "If you're ever in my area, look me up. And if I'm not home, look for me at the Blue Plate Diner. We can make up that lunch we were supposed to be having."

She nodded, her eyes shining merrily. "Will do."

"By the way..."


"What am I supposed to call you? You never did tell me."

"I guess I never really thought about it. Call me..." She glanced down at the piece of paper in her hands and laughed. "Call me 'Destiny.'"

Chance grinned and stuck out his right hand. "Well, Destiny, it was good to meet you."

"Same here, Chance."

"If my Luck holds, I can guarantee you we'll meet again."

Scully smiled. "I hope so, Chance. I hope so."

"I'll drop it by on my way home from work....Hm? Yes, it was an interesting coincidence....Yes, I can understand why you'd be eager to get it back....I'll talk to you later. Bye, Laura."

Scully hung up the phone with a sigh and reviewed the events of the afternoon in her mind. The salad she had twice abandoned was sitting on her desk. Since she hadn't had time to finish it once she got back from the station, she'd brought it down to the office with her. Even though she wouldn't allow herself to believe that Chance was somehow the reason for the string of bizarre events that had occupied her lunch hour, she still found herself thinking that things would probably calm down now that he was gone.

Then again, maybe not. After all, she did still have some explaining to do. She'd realized that when Skinner had congratulated her as they passed in the hallway. At first, she'd simply muttered a confused 'thanks,' but it hadn't taken her long to realize what misapprehension she'd accidentally perpetuated. She smiled, amused at the thought of Chance being mistakenly assumed to be her fiance.

As she took a bite of raw spinach drenched in bleu cheese, Scully's eyes drifted to Laura's engagement ring, which she was still wearing. She felt a sharp pang of regret, or something like it, pass through her heart. she wondered with a wistful smile, She'd never been engaged, and sometimes wondered if she ever would, but so far....well, if the right man HAD come along, she sure didn't know it yet.

Mulder chose that moment to make his appearance, and had no sooner reached his desk than he did a double take at the expression on the face of his usually serious partner. It didn't take him long to spot the apparent source of her change in mood and his eyes widened in surprise.

"Hey, Scully," he kept his voice deliberately casual. "Did you have a good lunch?"

"Ask me when I've finished it." She held up her salad. "As for lunch HOUR, well, it was...eventful. We didn't even get around to eating."

"I can see why not," her partner commented wryly.

Following his gaze with a puzzled frown, Scully's eyes drifted back to the ring. A knowing smile crept over her face as she reassessed her earlier comments under the assumption Mulder had obviously made. She studied her partner's face. Even though it was completely devoid of expression, she could tell he was intensely curious. Her smile broadened. Why not? He always did have a weird sense of humor...

"Do you like it?" she asked, putting a note of lovesick eagerness into her voice and playfully twisting the ring around her finger. "Chance gave it to me..."